“The Hoax” might be termed a feel-good story about the Watergate Era with Cliff Irving making a surprisingly likeable antihero.
Gere plays Clifford Irving, a down-on-his-luck author who nearly got away with the scam of the century as he authored a best-selling tell-all biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes whom he had never in fact met.
I found the film to be n oddly sublime marriage of director and material: Lasse Hollstrom’s penchant for rich storylines that veer towards happy endings is combined with characters that add a certain satirical element to the film. Hollstrom asserted in an interview with Scott Hollerean of box office mojo that Cliff Irving was symbolic of the anti-establishment attitudes of the era. When asked for what motivated Cliff Irving, Hollstrom said, “And I think it was a part of the early Seventies—which was all about finding a cool way of needling the Establishment, of questioning the Establishment.”
The film makes Gere’s Irving a character to root for and encourages its audience to push our reservations about Irving’s morals into the back of our minds. Irving is portrayed as a shade of grey, through most of the story and he is also in conflict with his own morals. He had an affair but struggled with himself for it, as he tried insisting that the mistress divorce him and get married. The film asks, more importantly, was Cliff Irving really that bad of a guy when neither of the two big figures in the film were honest?
Backed by Gere’s likeable anti-hero who gives us someone to root for and Alfred Molina supplying an odd couple dynamic with Gere, the film is an enjoyable ride.